With the trial of former transit police officer Johannes Mehserle set to begin on June 8, potential jurors will be faced with a questionnaire that poses more than 120 questions.
The questions, which were posted on the Los Angeles Superior Court website, asks whether jurors could put aside race to see the truth of the case, one question in particular asks jurors if they could overlook the fact that Mehserle is white and Grant was Black.
A pool of potential jurors for Mehserle’s trial is set to report to Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday to fill out the questionnaire to determine their eligibility.
The case centers around the 2009 murder of Oscar Grant III on New Year’s Day 2009 at the Fruitvale station in Oakland. According to video that hit the web like fire last year, Mehserle shot and killed Grant on the tracks after breaking up a fight.
Mehserle’s lawyer, Michael Rains, has admitted Mehserle shot and killed Grant but claims the shooting was accidental because the former officer meant to use his Taser stun gun on Grant but fired his gun by mistake.
[People pay for their mistakes in jail all the time, so what’s the difference here?]
Due to the publicity and elevated racial tension surrounding the case, Judge Ronald Perry granted that Mehserle’s could be moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles.
The presiding judge also ruled that he would allow defense video forensic analyst Michael Schott to testify in detail about a time-synchronized composite he compiled of four videos of the shooting that claimed the life of Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man, shortly after 2 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2009.
Mehserle and other officers had responded to the station on reports that there was a fight on a train.
Perry’s ruling on Tuesday followed the May 7th ruling which allowed the defense to present evidence from a 2006 incident in which Grant, who had three felony convictions, allegedly resisted being arrested and was shot with a Taser stun gun when officers tried to handcuff him during a traffic stop.
In addition to allowing evidence from both sides, Judge Perry denied Rains’ bid to call Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris as a defense witness, due to a conflict of interest.
According to court records, Burris filed a $50 million wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit on March 2, 2009, on behalf of Grant’s family against BART, Mehserle and other transit agency police officers.
On March 18, a federal judge approved a $1.5 million settlement between BART and Grant’s 5-year-old daughter, Tatiana Grant. However, no settlement has been reached with Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson.
Although he is not listed as a witness, Perry ruled that Burris could attend the trial but placed a gag order on Burris and all participating lawyers in the case, prohibiting them from discussing the trial to any media outlet.
Questioning of potential jurors will begin next Tuesday and opening statements could be presented late next week if a jury is selected in the allotted time frame.
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